The apartment was dark as I entered it, which was not unusual, as I never left the lights on when I left. It's just that it seemed darker than usual, more foreboding, even with the television set on, its light serving only to deepen the shadows in the rest of the room, broken only by the flickering of people moving about on the screen. The low murmur of voices, not quite intelligible, gave the room the feeling of a hospital room with doctors and family whispering just outside of the rooms of dying patients. It sent a chill through me and turned my arms to goose flesh.
The television being on was a problem; I was sure I hadn't left it on, hadn't even been watching it before I'd left my apartment earlier in the evening; yet, on it was. A shiver began to work itself through my body as I watched the eerie light glinting off of the hard surfaces in the room. The surface of my little dining table. The glass in the picture frame on the bookshelf. The whisky bottle dangling from the fingers of the body in my easy chair... The shiver turned violent as I realized there was somebody in my easy chair.
What the fuck! There was somebody sitting in my easy chair!
I stood by the door trying to get my shaking under control and trying not to breathe. Trying to hear beyond the sounds and knocking of my body. The beating of my heart. The rushing of my blood. The ocean roaring in my ears. Trying not to give in to the vertigo I felt as the room spun around me.
I stood there, frozen, like a squirrel in front of a car... like a squirrel in front of a car... like a squirrel...
There was something about a squirrel. A squirrel leaping from my hands and dying. Unless I was the squirrel. Was I the squirrel? Was I the squirrel about to leap and die, or was I stuck in place and about to get run down? Was death my only option here?
I stared at the body in my chair and realized that his face was turned toward me and that one large eye was open and staring at me. I quit breathing. I had already been seen!
Dizziness began to overtake me, and real panic set in. Even more real panic. I was going to pass out right in front of the intruder in my house! I was just going to fall down and die for him, and there was nothing I was going to be able to do about it. Not literally die, of course, except in the way that he would be able to kill me without a fight when I fainted. As if I was any kind of fighter to begin with.
Can you black out while standing up? I don't know if that's possible, but I think I did. All I know is that time passed, some quantity of time that I'm unaware of but enough of it that I knew that time had passed. Time had passed and the person in the chair hadn't moved. At all. Not even blinked, from what I could tell. At least, once I came back to my senses and continued to stare at the intruder, he never blinked. And his mouth was slightly ajar, chin slack, and he never closed his mouth. His tongue must have been completely dry; I had a sympathetic gush of saliva at the thought.
Was he asleep with his eye open? Because I realized, soon, that the eye wasn't looking at me. It was just staring... at I don't know what. It was flat and dull and as unmoving as the body. I felt drawn to it and, without really meaning to, took a step toward it.
There was a smell in the air, a stench. Or, at least, I imagined there was. Dead bodies are supposed to stink, right? But I don't know if there was anything I could smell or not. Even once I found myself standing over the body, the smell may have just been the result of my revulsion. My revulsion at having someone break into my apartment and die in my chair while drinking my whiskey. How sick is that?
The body was already bloated... Wait, how long did it take a body to become bloated? I don't think it's at all possible that there would have been time for that. I wasn't gone all that long. Had someone broken into my place for the purpose of dumping a bloated corpse? Who would do something like that? I felt sick...
But I kept staring at the dead thing in my chair, the t-shirt spread too tightly over the now expansive belly, the taut skin, ...the empty eyes. A chill spread through my body as I began to realize the person in the chair, the ex-person in the chair, seemed familiar. Very familiar.
The body in the chair... was me.